Apple Provides Some Limited Information on how the New MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar will be Accessible to Blind and Low Vision Users

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today confirmed to us that the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro models is accessible to users of VoiceOver, Zoom, and Switch Control.

This should come as no surprise when you consider Apple’s track record and the fact that the launch of the new MacBooks began with a video showcasing Apple’s commitment to accessibility and the announcement of a new Accessibility Portal on apple.com.

However, it’s good to have some idea of how Apple has implemented accessibility on the new Touch Bar and what this might mean for the use cases and workflow of blind and low vision users.

When VoiceOver is enabled, one can navigate and interact with the displayed information on the Touch Bar by using already-familiar iOS touch gestures. To enable or disable VoiceOver on Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro devices, hold down the Command key and triple-tap the Touch ID button.

At this time, it is still unclear how VoiceOver will handle commands that require use of the Function keys. As more information becomes available, we will update this post accordingly.

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3 Comments

#1 Concerned about my use case and workflow

I am curious to learn how this will work for low vision users who currently rely solely on Zoom. Will they now also have to enable VoiceOver if they don’t have enough sight to use the new touch panel. Hopefully Apple will have allowed for this situation and offer the ability to enable VoiceOver for just the touch panel.

Oh well, I guess that all will become clearer once people get their hands on the new MacBook.

Personally, I am only currently seeing the replacement of physical keys with this touch panel having a negative impact upon my use case and workflow.

#2 I'll Just Have to Wait and See

The whole concept of touch screens is very intriguing to me, since I've never used them before. Well sort of, if you count the fact that some of the Braille labels fell off my microwave. But I think I'm straying off topic there. Anyway, I'm curious how this touch bar thing will play out. Hopefully someday I can get my hands on a touch screen just to explore it. Having said all that, I'm happy with the keyboard on my MBA and will be fine if I end up using it for at least several more years.

#3 If you want to see touch screens

Get yourself an iPod Touch if you're not looking for an iPhone. You don't want Windows to be your first experience with them and, despite some improvement in Android, Apple still has the superior accessible touch experience at the present time. Or, if you have a Macbook post-2008, fire up VO's trackpad commander. It's not technically a touch screen, but it behaves as one when this feature is active.